Big Idea: We can love God and others well by respecting people’s property rights. This includes avoiding theft in all its various forms regardless of how socially acceptable they may be. We can also honor God by striving for the highest ethical standards, refusing to withhold that which is due to others.
I. Scope of the command
A. Simple theft is prohibited – taking what isn’t yours
B. Theft by fraud (Proverbs 11:1, 20:23, Leviticus 19:13, Deuteronomy 24:15, Jeremiah 22:13, Luke 10:7, Romans 4:4, I Timothy 5:18; Luke 19:1-10)
C. Theft by withholding wages due
D. The stakes – why does this matter? (Proverbs 30:9)
II. How does this happen today?
A. Theft today
B. Fraud today
C. Withholding wages
III. Call to action
A. Honor God and love others by maintaining the highest ethical standards.
B. If you observe behaviors in your company that constitute theft, wisely and skillfully confront this unlawful behavior.
C. Strive to vote with your dollars towards equitable compensation.
1) Have you ever stolen anything in your life? Share the story if you feel comfortable doing so. What was the main motivation for taking what wasn’t yours? How did that make you feel afterwards?
2) Is fraud a form of theft or something different all together? How does the white color crime of embezzling people’s retirement money similar to breaking into someone’s house to steal their stuff? Is taking all their retirement savings worse or better than breaking into one’s house?
3) Would you consider a company who regularly withholds wages from employees guilty of theft? Have you seen this reality in any jobs you have had?
4) Who steals more, employees from their employers or employers from employees? How widespread do you think work place theft is? Which is a bigger problem, employee theft or shoplifting? Why do you think people shoplift? Is it more often need-based, or is it for the rush of doing something they know they shouldn’t?
5) What do you think a livable wage is? Should we make a livable wage be minimum wage? What should minimum wage be? Can paying people below a livable wage be considered withholding wages?
6) What is the difference between intentionally deceptive business practices and theft? Is fraudulent misrepresentation the same as theft? Have you had experience with theft by fraud? If so, are you willing to share your experience? How did you feel about your experience?
7) What is the obligation of a Christian whose sees unethical business practices in their company? Should they blow the whistle or look the other way? How are whistleblowers treated? How many people look the other way out of fear?
8) Have you thought about your ability to effect change through the use of your power as consumer? What would happen if people decided they would not purchase products from companies that withheld wages from their employees?
What would you do if you found out that your favorite company uses sweatshops in Asia? Is withholding wages from workers only sinful if it happens in the United States?
9) To what extent is it our responsibility as Christians to be aware of these issues? Is it a case of “don’t ask, don’t tell”? Or is it our duty to be aware? How far do you take that? How much can any one person know about the business practices of all the companies that produce all the products he or she purchases?
10) What single change could you make in your life to help stop theft in its many forms?